If you live in an area where it rains a good portion of the year, then you likely have a slug and snail problem. These pests don’t generally come inside, but they can cause a lot of problems outside the home. Knowing how to get rid of slugs and snails may very well save your garden, your siding, and your landscaping.
Slug and Snail Facts
In basic terms, snails are slugs that have shells on them. These pets are the most common form of mollusks that will create problems for homeowners. There are more than 60,000 different species in the world today, but many of them live out in the sea or in freshwater locations. If you’re in the mood, you can even eat many of the species. Most homeowners are going to have banana slugs and garden snails with which to content.
If you have garden snails, you can eat them. They’re not the snails that are used for escargot, but there are some homeowners that have caught them and cooked them. Being edible doesn’t mean they are tasty, however, so proceed with care if you choose this method of limiting this particular pest.
Slugs and snails leave slime trails that can be very difficult to remove, but that difficulty also means the potential for profit. The cosmetic industry is using the mucus from the snail slime in products because it has unique regenerative possibilities. If you have lots of snails and slugs that are eating your fruits and vegetables, then you might have an unusual profit source on your hands.
Signs of Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails are generally active in the evenings and overnight. They prefer moist, cooler temperatures and will hide out during the day. When you wake up in the morning and see something that looks like a 3-year-old picked their nose and then traced a trail along the sidewalk or siding with their finger, then you’ve got snails or slugs.
If you have a garden that has partially eaten fruits or vegetables in it, then slugs and snails are also a possibility. The slime trail is usually seen, but sometimes this pest can be sneaky and the soil will cover up the trail. The fruit or vegetable will feel a little slimy to the touch and there will be a large hole on one side of the item. Fruit trees can also be a target of this pest.
If you have leafy vegetables in your garden, snails and slugs will eat these as well. You can tell by the irregular holes that are on the leafs that these pests have been around. A large enough infestation can wipe out an entire crop of lettuce overnight.
When enough snails or slugs get together, they can also create dead spots in a lawn. These spots look like dog urine patches that can sometimes develop, but on a much smaller scale. You’ll often find these spots where water tends to congregate, which attracts slugs particularly because the moisture protects them from the sun.
How To Kill Slugs and Snails
If cooking these pests isn’t your preferred method of getting rid of them, then killing them can be as simple as picking them up and disposing of them. If you catch the snails before they can reproduce, then you’ll be able to limit their population pretty effectively. You can grab snails by their shells, but use tongs to pick up slugs because the thick slime that gets on your hands can be difficult to remove.
Salt effectively kills slugs and snails. Just don’t make the mistake of sprinkling salt out in your lawn or garden. Not only will the extra salt kill of your plants, but you’ll also potentially ruin the soil. If you plan on using this method to get rid of the pest, then make up a bucket of salt water and then drop the snails and slugs that you find in your yard and garden into it.
Those sneaky snails and slugs can be tough to find sometimes. If you don’t want to hunt them down in the middle of the night, then place a large piece of cardboard out where you believe the pests are hiding. When the sun comes out, they’ll take refuge underneath it and you can pick off a bunch of them all at once. Even exposing them to sunlight will dry them out and eventually kill them with enough exposure.
Slugs and snails also love the combination of yeast and honey. If you’ve forgotten about a beer, then mix it with some honey and place the container into the ground. The pests will crawl in to consume the honey/yeast combination and eventually trap themselves. You’ve got to make sure the container you’ve sunk into the ground is high and slippery enough that the slugs and snails can’t crawl out – a large yogurt container works pretty well. You’ll want to check your trap daily because frogs might jump in there too.
If you’re not in the pest-killing state of mind, then you can protect your garden and yard by placing copper around it as a border. Slugs and snails can’t crawl over copper because it transmits an electrical charge to the critters every time they touch it. If you don’t want to install an entire border, creating small raised beds for each plant will also work. Copper foil, screens, and flashing will all work. Make sure to use vinegar periodically to clean the tarnish off the copper, otherwise this method will stop working.
Placing things that could injure the slugs or snails around your plants is also an effective way to stop these pests without killing them. Egg shells are very easy to use, but if you use crushed oyster shells, you can also have a fertilizer for your plants that is pretty effective.
DIY Slug and Snail Control
The problem with many DIY slug and snail control methods is that the very environment (rain and low temperatures) makes them ineffective. Combined with irritants, however, these products keep working when after it has rained and are safe to use around pets, kids and other wildlife.
This slug and snail bait can be used in vegetable and flower gardens very effectively. It’s organic and just one pound of it will cover up to 2,000 square feet of garden space. The main ingredient in the bait is iron phosphate and can be used up until harvest time to keep the pests at bay. If you spread too much bait in one area, however, and there’s lots of moisture present, you can encourage some mold to grow and give yourself a new problem. Sprinkle it and be done with it.
This slug and snail controller is also safe around fruits and vegetables. It stands up to the rain pretty well and can go through the weekly waterings without a hassle. It will take out the cutworms that come after your plants too. It contains Bitrex, so the product is supposed to taste bad if eaten, but the main ingredient is metaldehyde, which is harmful to pets. A 3 pound container of the multipurpose product for all pests will cover about 6,000 square feet in total and is effective for about 3 weeks.
When you’ve got stubborn slugs and snails around, then you need to have a stubborn slug and snail killer. This particular product is a little more expensive than other products, but the results from the patented formula for the bait is independently proven to provide better results. The bait interferes with the digestive system of the slug or snail and forces them to stop eating. It won’t hurt pets or other wildlife and doesn’t affect beneficial insects either. It isn’t as weather-resistant as other products, however, so take care when watering your plants.
Cost of Slug and Snail Control
Surprisingly enough, many pest control agencies don’t actually offer slug and snail services. There may be regional providers that do offer this service, especially in the upper portions of the US Pacific Northwest. The cost of professional pest control for slugs and snails is generally the same for most other pests. Because metaldehyde is the primary treatment method, however, most homeowners will opt for one of the top DIY methods rather than pay for service calls.
The one problem that homeowners with these pests face is that the costs are ongoing. Treatments may need to happen 2x per month and for large garden spaces, that can become costly. At $10 per bottle, a 2,000 square foot garden could be treated all season long for around $100. If you have really stubborn snails and slugs because of an ongoing temperate climate, those costs can be tripled because year-round treatments may be necessary for 2-3 years to fully eliminate the pest.
Slug and Snail Repellent and Prevention
Here’s something that you may not know: slugs and snails will hibernate when the weather turns colder. They’ll bury themselves into your topsoil and then sleep the cold season away. This is your chance to remove the pests that are of reproductive age. You’ll then need to proactively pick off snails and slugs one by one and use baits and other deterrents throughout the next season to take care of the pests that hatched from the eggs that were already laid.
Copper tape can be successful, but it must be of a pure quality [it can’t just be copper plating to be effective] and of a large enough width. Snails that can quickly cross the span will not be as affected by the electrical discharge. Look for a copper width of at least 1.5 inches if you plan on using this repellent method. Copper that is 3 inches wide or above tends to provide the best results. Remember to remove any tarnishing to keep the copper effective.
Anything salty will cause the slugs and snails to have problems, but the extra salt can also be problematic for you in other ways as well. If you don’t want to pick up slugs and snails to put them in a bucket of salty water, then place a covering on a patch of concrete that has a large enough gap for the snails and slugs to crawl underneath. Remove the covering in the heat of the day and douse the pests with salt.
Natural Slug and Snail Repellent and Killer
Slugs and snails can’t stand high amounts of salt or iron. If you don’t have the ability to apply these because of your landscaping, then rough surfaces are your second best option. Take a sheet of sandpaper and cut a hole out of the middle of it so your plant can come up through it. Use the roughest grade of sandpaper that you can find. This won’t prevent large snails and slugs, but the smaller ones won’t like crawling over the items.
If you live near the coast, fresh seaweed is a good alternative. The seaweed will concentrate in the sun and become extra salty, which will drive the snails away. Put the seaweed around the perimeter of your garden or lawn and you’ll keep most of the pests out of the area. Just pick off the ones that you do find and throw them away.
And, on the spare chance that you’ve got some spare copper tubing from the installation of your plumbing system, consider adding it to the mix. It might be worth more in scrap, but it may just keep those snails and slugs away.
Knowing how to get rid of slugs and snails means being proactive in your approach to controlling the population. Laying up to 80 eggs each, these pests can expand quickly and take over an entire yard, not to mention a garden. Use this guide to eliminating the threat once and for all and you won’t have to worry about those icky slime trails ever again.